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Meet the Four African Independence Leaders Who Stayed in Bed with Former Colonial Masters

The posture of most Africans towards Europeans in the mid-20th century cannot be described as cozy or anything synonymous with the image of holding hands in optimism.

This anti-European sentiment colored the politics of the day. Whatever aggression or militarism that characterized individual independence struggles can be traced to that sentiment.

In the same vein, the majority of African independence leaders wanted to look beyond what their colonial masters offered.

The likes of Kwame Nkrumah warned of neocolonialism even before leading Ghana to independence.

However, after independence, the Thrasymachian reality hit. The world, as it is, is tailored according to the values and dispositions of those with the means.

African independence leaders realized they had to tone down the rhetoric and vilification. Even Nkrumah welcomed interests from the Americans as he would from his ideological brethren in the East.

But there were still yet another batch of leaders who felt Africa’s destiny, or maybe the destinies of their countries was inextricably linked to partnerships with former colonizers.

The argument for that opinion animated certain ventures like the CFA franc zone.

As follows are African leaders who, contrary to fears of neocolonialism, chose to model their countries in the light of their colonizers.

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Jomo Kenyatta. Photo Credit:

Jomo Kenyatta

Jomo Kenyatta was once described as a Kikuuyu man, made of the Victorian values. What Kenyatta embodied was the idea of the Anglicized African man.

Ultimately, this was his self-perception too. What emerged, therefore, was the centering of the self’s image as the blueprint for whatever course an independent Kenya would take.

Kenya was African but would also look like Britain, Kenyatta decided. Although he professed a “non-aligned” position during the Cold War, Kenyatta was quite pro-British.

Kenyatta’s liking for the British even led some commentators to conclude that Britain had exchanged a position of power for that of influence.

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Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Photo Credit:

Félix Houphouët-Boigny

Ivory Coast’s first president was one of the purveyors of the so-called Françafrique philosophy that spoke to the maintenance of ties between former French colonies in Africa and France.

Houphouët-Boigny and like-minded Africans made the argument that France’s sphere and depth of influence in the cultures the Europeans colonized, could not be undone.

Houphouët-Boigny personally coined the term Françafrique in 1955 when he was talking about the relationship between France and the Ivory Coast.

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Léopold Sédar Senghor. Photo Credit:

Léopold Sédar Senghor

Budding Pan-Africanists are usually surprised to learn that Senghor, one of the fathers of Negritude, disagreed with Nkrumah’s advocacy of antipathy towards former colonizers.

Senghor as Senegal’s first president was very friendly towards colonial masters France. Indeed, he continued to maintain both a political and intellectual posture to this effect.

Together with Houphouët-Boigny, Senghor advanced an ideology that the French would take advantage of to maintain an unnecessary presence in their former colonies.

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Habib Bourguiba. Photo Credit:

Habib Bourguiba

Apart from being Tunisia’s independent leader, Bourguiba is esteemed in the North African country as an intellectual who saw the practicality of taking to arms in the quest for sovereignty.

But Bourguiba was a fierce secularist which meant former colonial power France saw him as a reliable ally.

He became an ambassador for the Françafrique project across the continent, even implying that French culture was a model for Africans.


Written by How Africa

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